Mariah Carey faced the world again on New Year's Eve, determined to prove after last year's unfortunate blunder that she can sing. And she can. Along with a few million other people, I tuned in to watch what would happen, live (spoiler: she did better than Andy Cohen did on CNN). There is an excitement to live TV broadcasts; even the best-laid plans can be waylaid by unexpected difficulties. Which is not to say that I was by any means rooting against Mariah, but she has proven herself to be unpredictable on live programming for several years now (let's not relive that infamous moment on TRL), so watching her is an adventure in genuinely not knowing what might happen. The sky is the limit.
And on this New Year's Eve, Mariah Carey took me through the emotional gauntlet.
When the cameras turned to her for her first performance, she looked so glamorous and...nervous. It is already difficult to sing, especially high notes, when it is cold outside. Add to that the record cold temperatures that Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve broadcasted through this year and that Mariah left her coat open to display her nude dress and — let's just say, she wasn't making it easier on herself. The friend I watched with mused that she should have opted to dress like a cute snow bunny instead, and with temps that felt in the negative digits, I have to admit that is a good idea. Mariah, my friend is available to consult with your stylist, should you like.
Mariah regaled us with a few verses of her first hit, "Vision of Love," which is incredibly difficult to sing under normal conditions due to its range. She did not come to this stage to play; that song choice signaled that she wanted to really prove herself. But she stuck to the lower range for much of the song, choosing to showcase the power of her voice rather than walking up, to the upper octaves of her infamously impressive vocal range. Oh no, I thought, she's in trouble. That was when Mariah made me feel anxious.
She finished the song successfully, if not as masterfully as she might have been capable of in a more hospitable climate. That's when she did the thing that launched a thousand tweets: she rambled. In her nervous between-song banter, she told the audience she was going to break for a drink of her hot tea. Clearly, her vocal chords could use the warm-up, because they weren't performing at their peak in this epic cold. A swig of nice, hot tea would loosen them up — a perfectly known trick. Mariah wanted that tea so she could be her best for us. That was when Mariah made me feel endeared to her.
Alas, her tea was not there. A small hassle under any other circumstances, but on this night it made a skittish pop star prattle. "They told me there would be tea, ugh it's a disaster," Mariah quipped. "Well, we'll just have to rough it. I'm gonna be just like everybody else with no hot tea."
It was said in jest, a moment when Mariah both joked about her over-the-top diva persona and acknowledged that she'd like the damn tea, that she is better than "everybody else" and deserves some tea. That was when Mariah made me laugh.
She began singing "Hero," and it was choppy at first but midway through the song, her confidence kicked in. She started reaching for those high notes. Her entire body relaxed. Mariah knew she had this, she was born to do this. Confident in the knowledge that she had redeemed herself, Mariah finished the song. That was when Mariah made me feel proud of her.
Later, when the broadcast was through, Mariah tweeted. She had found her hot tea, and I bet it tasted sweet, like victory.
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